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Hoeft ready to help Pilots

Mauian to return as grad assistant indoors, senior player on the beach

Seabury Hall graduate Shayla Hoeft congratulates partner Kassidy Naone in a recent University of Portland sand volleyball match. Hoeft will return to UP in the fall as a graduate assistant indoors and as a senior for the beach team in the spring. Photo courtesy of Dylan Hamilton

Shayla Hoeft is making the best of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cancellation of her senior season for the University of Portland beach volleyball team has turned into an opportunity, and the Seabury Hall graduate wants to make the most of it.

“I’m so stoked that I get to come back,” Hoeft said Thursday. “I love Portland, I love Oregon, I love UP, I love Dylan (Hamilton), my coach, because he is from Maui, too. So, I just feel really at home with him, I really trust him.”

Hoeft’s partner on the No. 1 duo for the Pilots, Alycia Wodke, will also be back as a sixth-year player.

“I talked a lot with my partner from last year and she’s deciding to come back, too,” Hoeft said. “We kind of decided together that we were going to make the decision to come back. I’m really looking forward to it. I love the area, there’s no downside to it for me.”

Photo courtesy of Dylan Hamilton

Hoeft is currently taking a single class during summer session to finish her bachelor’s degree in psychology and will be a graduate student pursuing a master’s in communication in the fall.

She is out of eligibility for indoor volleyball, but she will serve as a graduate assistant this fall, according to Hamilton, a fellow Seabury Hall graduate who is an indoor assistant coach and head coach of the Pilots’ beach program.

When the beach season was halted in March due to the pandemic, Hoeft said it was hard to take.

“We’re really close to Seattle, so we kind of knew it was going to happen, but even with all that preparation — like, mental preparation — it was just such a shock, such a sudden and abrupt parting,” Hoeft said. “As a senior, that’s such a sad thing to have to leave everything, have to leave my teammates, who I love.”

The cancellation of the season left Hoeft with an empty feeling.

Shayla Hoeft, a Portland senior, will return for one more season on the sand. Photo courtesy of Dylan Hamilton

“I felt like I didn’t get to appreciate everything that comes with a senior year, with a senior spring semester especially with everything coming to a close,” Hoeft said. “I’m just so lucky to have been given the opportunity to come back and be able to experience it all just one more time.”

Hoeft said it will be an odd feeling to not be playing indoor volleyball in the fall for the first time since she was introduced to the sport as a freshman at Seabury Hall eight years ago.

Hoeft asked Pilots coach Megan Burton if there was any way she could stay involved with the indoor program — Hoeft plans to play indoors professionally overseas after finishing at UP.

“I don’t want to be away from it at all,” she said. “Either being a practice player or whatever. I have just asked her so much, like, ‘I can help schedule things or be in meetings.’ I just care so much about the indoor team, so it’s going to be hard for sure.

“I’m going to be at every game, and yeah, it’s going to be hard.”

Hoeft’s long-term goal of coaching will get a boost from whatever her role is with the Portland indoor program. She was second team all-West Coast Conference as a middle blocker her senior season indoors.

“I’m, like, just give me the middles, I can do film with them or something,” Hoeft said. “I’m looking into every possibility to stay involved with the indoor program.”

Colton Cowell, an All-American for the University of Hawaii men’s program, knows Hoeft well from his days playing with and against her in Scott Zucco’s Aloha Volleyball Association beach program.

“I actually had the opportunity to train with Shayla on the beach,” Cowell said. “I developed a great relationship with Shayla and Amy Ozee and a lot of the other top female players that came from the island of Maui. Shayla’s an incredible athlete and just a very kind demeanor, very genuine. Worked really hard to get better and as you can see now, she’s in an incredible position.”

Hamilton is happy to have Hoeft back to play at No. 1 next spring. Hoeft has made the transition to NCAA beach play quickly. Nevada, her first school before transferring after her sophomore season, did not have a beach program.

“It’s awesome,” Hamilton said. “She’s been a leader on our team for the last two years since she transferred from Nevada and to able to keep that is a big deal. We’ve got eight incoming kids — three incoming for the beach team and five incoming for the indoor team — and I think she will be able to be just a really good example with her actions and her ability to lead and care about people for both indoor and outdoor.”

Hamilton shakes his head when considering that he and Hoeft both graduated from Seabury Hall before becoming coach and player at UP.

“It’s funny,” Hamilton said. “We know a lot of the same people and, of course, we are from the same place, so when we talk about those places it’s very interesting because other people are confused or don’t quite know why do they both know exactly what they’re talking about.”

Both are close with Zucco and current Seabury Hall boys coach Josh Kulhavy-Sutherland, as well as Ozee, who is transferring from UH to a school yet to be announced for her final season of beach play.

“We can reference people — she knows who my best friend is (Kulhavy-Sutherland) and has played volleyball with him and I’ve done the same with her best friend (Ozee),” Hamilton said. “So, it’s a cool relationship that we have there.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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